EP129: Immortal Sin

By Jennifer Pelland
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated, November 2005.

Alex stumbled from the confessional, through the church, all the way to the curb. He had to get out of there. He couldn’t sit in the house of God anymore. God didn’t want him there. That was abundantly clear. Forty-one years of perfect mass attendance. Six years as an altar boy. A childhood spent praying for his grandmother’s soul to hasten her time in Purgatory. A spotless record of weekly confessions for the past twelve years. He’d even stopped having sex with Alison two years ago after she’d gotten a tubal ligation so he wouldn’t be committing fornication. He’d followed the rules when he could, and asked for forgiveness when he couldn’t. But none of it mattered. He would die unshriven.

Unless he didn’t die.

Rated R. It’s our Halloween episode. Expect to be disturbed.

Referenced Sites:
Broad Universe
The DrabbleCast

Comments (27)

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  1. sam says:

    Can somone explain the ending? Seemed pretty ambiguous to me.

  2. Me says:

    Hi, at about 28 minutes in the narrator (‘whoever’ he is ) pauses and coughs.

    Good way to highlight the vulnerability of the human body. nice touch 😉

  3. Baus says:

    Another “collector’s” mis-edit edition?

    Anyway, sam, about the ending… the doc’s in hell. God always wins. Boowahahah.

  4. Me says:


    Now, how do I get this download onto eBay?

  5. Baus says:

    Oh, wait. sam was being sarcastic.

  6. SFEley says:

    Fixed. Thanks, Me, for the heads-up!

  7. REU says:

    The point he most likely died was back before the project ended. When he choked and had no repentance for what he did. ‘Cause I doubt he died in Boston.

  8. PK says:

    Maybe that isn’t Escape Pod’s lamest story ever, but it’s definitely in the bottom five.

  9. Niels says:

    I like endings that are a little ambiguous, alsways forces me to revisit what I just heard/read. The story itself, high on moral, not so high on the “scary” elements, not one of my favourites though

  10. SoulPatch76 says:

    I enjoyed it. It was creepy and the main character was believable in a weird way. I think the passage of time should have been better explained and I was looking to see how he would interact with the future. The ending was somewhat abrupt, but I do get the point.

  11. JM Inc. says:

    I liked it. It clearly illustrates the fallacy of being so obsessed with mortality that you forget how good being alive can be to begin with.

    On a serious note, I’d love the chance to live indefinitely with some technology like the ones in the story, if they came about during my lifetime, so I don’t agree with that jibe about the “naturalness of mortality,” which I think is probably the other big fallacy about death that most people tend to fall into.

    Whether or not he‚Äôs in hell by the end is debatable, obviously I tend to think of it secularly (‚ÄúThe mind is its own place,‚Äù – John Milton, Paradise Lost) though. Still, an excellent story; very dramatic and psychological. It reminded me a bit of “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe.

  12. SRN says:

    So he’s obsessed with adhering to the letter of dogma and believes everything in the bible literally. But he’d rather rely on not-yet existing technology and build a safe house to avoid hell rather than turn himself in? What’s 20 years in jail if your reward is eternal salvation? He never in the 50 + years since his murder had second thoughts? Even, maybe the waitress didn’t deserve to die, I’ve been free for 50 years, I let my self age and die in jail but confess?

  13. Dave (aka Nev the Deranged) says:

    Hm. My comment might have been one of the ones that got deleted. Or I might have posted it somewhere else and forgotten. Anyway.

    The first time I heard this story it was cut off right when the bookcase was about to fall on him. I freaked out, because I was really digging the story and I wanted to know what happened.

    I finally got a complete copy and some time to listen to it… and this is the non-ending I get?

    What a gyp.*

    Ambiguity is one thing. Lazy writing is another. Check out EP131, Hesperia and Glory, for ambiguity done right.

    (*no offense to any Gypsies in the EP audience).

  14. Oh, yeah, and when I liked the story, I was gonna say “this is how Mad Scientists are born”. And I guess that’s still true.

    I’m… not 100% sure what I meant by it, though. =4a7d3d609129a9296bf7ac0608c2097

  15. And I have no idea what that random string of numbers is.

  16. Lava_surfer says:

    Hey, what about the “Creepy Doll” song? I was expecting to find a link in the show notes. It’s been in my head all day.

  17. Lava, check youtube for several variants, including the live version and a few fan-videos.

  18. Michael says:

    Lava, you can get it straight from the man himself:
    The MP3 is at the end of the post.

  19. party poker com says:

    This is a great page. And the contents are really that worth reading. I will add this to my own library

  20. terry says:

    how about some true stories like the time i met the killer of o.js wife or the day i met up with ben ladin or the day i met death in the grassy noll or my wife was a cerreol killer or my husban took the bankroll and left me for dead or my girl freind leaft me for antiono bandaris and merried swartinegger. now those are stories.

  21. Graeme says:

    Great story, although it is hard to believe that someone who is clever enough to do cutting edge research could also be stupid enough to be so stupid in matters of religion. To call his theology naive would be an understatement.

    I am not sure any Pope would be silly enough to talk about bodies “retaining” souls, either.

    On the other hand, the character was strangely believable, for all that.

    SRN, the point is not that giving himself up would get him absolution for his sin, but that it would be a necessary part of repentance: if he was truly sorry for what he had done he would confess to the police. However, confessing would not, in itself, make him repentant. It is very clear that he is never repentant – he keeps blaming his victim rather than himself throughout the story.

  22. frostsfire says:

    I found this to be one of the most provoative escapepod stories i’ve herd so far, not only because of the heavy themes of Religion vs. science, but because the main character was dun to hate. i couldn’t wait for his karma to come back and smack him in the face.

  23. scatterbrain says:

    Reminds me of the ReAnimater films.

  24. Really interesting, Great ending too.

  25. Steven says:

    I’ve known someone obsessed with longevity. This is a man with a phd in Chemistry, but the obsession keeps him way on the fringe of academia. This made the story exceedingly creepy for me as it sorta makes me question what other things could cause such an obsession.

    Anyway, for a story like this that deals with multiple scientific procedures that will take an unknown amount of time to bring to fruition, I’m glad the time lines were vague enough that the story doesn’t unnecessarily date itself.

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